Too close to home


On Wednesday morning around 8AM, a student at nearby UCMerced pulled out a hunting knife in a classroom on campus and started stabbing people. By the time the whole thing was done, 4 people were being treated for stab wounds–two seriously enough to be transported by helicopter to a trauma hospital–and the 18-year-old student who initiated the attack was dead.

My nephew is a parking guard at the UC. He works mornings. My first thought, of course, was: Is Michael okay? I also have many wonderful friends and several book club members who are faculty and work at the school. Were they all safe?

Luckily, the answer to those questions is: YES.

But safe doesn’t mean they were untouched by what happened. As Jamie, Michael’s wife who also works at UCMerced but at an off-campus facility, put it in a Facebook post, there’s plenty of heartache to go around in the aftermath:

So many of Mike‘s family and our friends contacting me to check on us today. The parents and staff at my girls’ school checking on his safety, and if the girls were worried and ok. To say that the events of today were shocking or sad is such an understatement. But the outpouring of love and support has filled my heart and I want you to know how appreciative we are. Neither of us were on campus when it happened. By some strange twist of fate, I had asked Mike to take Parker to her orthodontist appointment this morning. He normally begins work at 6:45. Selfishly, I’m so grateful that he was not there during the attack. He was later let on campus and my heart is heavy for the heartache he had to witness in the aftermath.
My heart is breaking for the families of the victims and the witness who now are dealing with experiencing such a tragic event. There are many stories of heroism, kindness, and love today. Please please please let these affect you more than the fear and sadness. 

This attack made national news, so you’ve probably heard as much as I have about the details: As days go on, we’ll have more details about the who, how, when, and where, but what we may never fully know is the why. Revenge may have been his the motive, but why wouldn’t some sort of failsafe kick in to tell this young man that what he plotted was a very bad idea–that he could wind up dead if the acted on his bizarre plans? A very bad idea, indeed.

My heart is still heavy, but, taking Jamie’s advice, I’m going to try to stay positive, focus on the good around me and hug my loved ones. You have to start somewhere.



PS: I have something new and fun happening on my website. My publisher, Tule, has set up an interactive sort of contest that allows readers to participate in “unlocking” chapters of my not-yet-released book, MONTANA MIRACLE. Chapter 1 is already open. You can download it here: 

I Tweet, therefore, I Am?

I set up my Twitter account back in the beta-testing stage and promptly pretended it/I didn’t exist. When I’d get a notice that someone was following me, I felt a little creeped out and I’d ask aloud, “Why?”

Fast forward to some writers conference somewhere when the hot topic was Twitter for Business. Okay, I’m definitely a business. I decided to get serious about growing my business. I started with 357 followers…again, why? I never tweeted. I was the dullest tweep on the planet.

But I found a coach–thank you, Rogenna Brewer. I learned. Now, I’ve crested 5K. Not a lot compared to those with a zillion followers, but I’m happy.

Screenshot 2015-06-14 16.52.56 Do I think this helps sell books? Oh, who knows? But once you get comfortable with the format, tweeting becomes a bit like a game.

And my most recent challenge has been to find a way to make it play with itself. (Sounds dirtier than it is.) I’m all about the visual these days. You’ve seen some of my memes in my recent blogs:Montana Hero quoteMontana Cowboy FREE Father's Day Tule Imagine my glee when a friend told me about a service that will feed my Tweets with images in a way that won’t make Twitter think you’re a spammer. :-) The service is called: Feed140.

Screenshot 2015-06-18 16.08.08 One of the cool things about this service is they offer playlists of their own that you can use to supplement your feed. I chose 100 Motivational and Self-Help quotes.

Here’s one in my feed: The achievement of one goal should be the starting point of another. -Alexander Graham Bell

I’m still figuring things out, but here’s a quick primer:

1.) Sign up for the free option to start out (no risk if you don’t like it).

2.) Create tweets and save them in a Word doc. Since I knew I wanted to be able to take advantage of Feed140′s Playlist option, I cut and pasted each tweet in the Playlist queue (not the Twitter queue). You can add tweets to the Twitter queue independently of the Playlist queue, but they will go away after they’ve posted and you have to fill the queue again. (Believe me, I did this and was not amused.) With each tweet, upload an image to go with it.

(Aside: I make memes using Canva. I will go into this in another blog, but it’s easy and cheap.)

3.) Visuals are a great eye-catcher in a Twitter Feed. Don’t believe me? Check your feed and see where your eye goes.

4.) Pick the frequency that you want your tweets shared. Feed140 insists that you have enough tweets to meet 3 days of unique tweets in order to make the Playlist initiate a loop with random selections (just like with your music). I uploaded 30 tweets, and set my frequency to 10 tweets/day for 3 days.

Here’s one of my tweets and the meme that goes with it:

She thought she had all the answers…at 17. Who doesn’t? @BNBuzz  MONTANA COWGIRL #readzTule   COWGIRL - mistakes rodeo5.) Don’t have enough tweets? Think about this: if your book is on multiple platforms and/or foreign countries, you can use the same tweet and meme with a different buy link for each format. I may change the wording slightly to target that link and possibly get some RTs (retweets).

You should also create interesting, non-commercial tweets. I support libraries, so I have some positive tweets about books, bookgirls, reading and libraries that I sprinkled into the mix.

Ex. Have you hugged a librarian today? #iheartlibraries quotes-about-inspirational_368599-4 So, if you’re new to Twitter, let’s connect. My handle is @debsalonen.

If you’re an author wondering whether or not you want another time-suck in your busy life, I can’t give you a definitive answer. But I will say that visuals help raise visibility and connect at some level that mere words don’t. Maybe they feel like less of a hard sell. And, if you can make one effort do twice the work, then why not give it a try?

And because life is soooo much more than just PR, here’s the other thing I did last weekend–my granddaughter’s 8th birthday. Daisy cake Deb PS: Next week, I’m going to tell you more than you ever wanted to know about making a book trailer. Oh, joy! ;-)

Debra Salonen


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When The Heart Feels Lonely at Thanksgiving Time (Tara Taylor Quinn)

I wonder what the world would be like if we didn’t have each other to learn from.  What would a day look like without anything being passed from one person to another?

As I sit alone in my office, day after day, it’s easy to imagine that I could go it alone.  That I could get up each day, write my books, go to bed at night and start it all over again.  I can shop from my computer.  I can pay bills from computer.  My checks are delivered to me.  I might have to venture out to the grocery store every now and then.  But I could survive.

And then I look around me.  I’ve surrounded myself with the things that fill up my spirit.  That feed my soul.  And I am brought up short.  I could no more go it alone then I could walk on water.  I’m human.  With far more precious needs than food, water, and a roof over my head.  My heart and soul need the give and take with other hearts and souls to nourish it from moment to moment.  From day to day.  Week to week.  Year to year.

My phone beeps a text message.  My cousin.  She contacts me pretty much every single morning.  And has for years.  Not just for a time, or something she might try for a while, but something that has been ongoing for many years.  Before text messaging she emailed every day.  That is what feeds my soul as I sit alone.

That picture up there…the cornucopia.  It’s on a shelf to my right.  My mother made that.  She made another one just like it and I loved it and was so impressed by her talent and ability and wanted to have it forever, to remind me everything good about her for the rest of my days and then she donated the thing to her church boutique and it sold within the first minutes and I was really and truly sad.  Until I opened a Christmas present and there was another one – made by her loving hands, just for me.

There are pictures all around me.  From fifty years ago.  From this morning.  And many moment in between.  Snippets of memories.  Of love.  There’s a photo of my daughter right in front of my computer screen, between the keyboard and the screen.  There are pictures to the left, to the right, and behind me, too, for when I turn around.  I look at them every time I glance away from the work in progress.

I stop work for a moment to go out on Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter.  I have messages and notices, people who have shared tidbits of themselves with me, who welcome me into the minutes of their lives.

And then my insistent little princess starts tossing the cable cord with her nose.  over and over and over again.  She wants my attention.  Her big brother comes out of the laundry room carrying an unmentionable.  The phone rings.  It’s Tim.

And I realize that I don’t go it alone at all.  Not even a little bit.  And I am very thankful.